Every beginning birder wonders what they need to know before embarking on this beautiful hobby.
The most effective way to watch birds is to stop, look, and listen. Learn how to be quiet to avoid making any startling noises. You will need to invest in a pair of binoculars along with a field guide to help you identify the species. Any sudden movement will alarm birds to fly away. Wait and be patient as they will fly closer to you. Spring is a beautiful time to start.
Experienced birders use strategies and tactics that help them find and have a better look at birds than others.
10 Birding Tips For Beginner Bird Watchers
We have gathered some elementary tips and techniques that every beginning birder should know about:
Spot Them With Your Naked Eye
First and foremost, start spotting birds with your naked eyes before putting binoculars on them. It’s a rookie mistake to use them before looking around with your naked eyes.
Too many inexperienced people who have gone birding for the first time in the forest do this. They look with their binoculars first only to find nothing. It’s because binoculars narrow your field of view. It is frustrating and very discouraging for people who are trying to get into this activity.
Now, this isn’t always the case. It depends on which kind of birding you plan to do. Of course, you would want to use your binoculars first if you’re scanning the horizon for water birds or shorebirds that are really far away.
Focus On Listening Just As Much As Watching
Even though it’s called bird watching, a lot of this hobby has to do with getting your ears involved. You really need to focus as much on the sounds as you do visually. It’s an excellent way to identify them because birds are naturally very vocal.
Besides, you won’t be able to notice birds flying at all times. Cases like these are common when you hear calls or chirps before finding them. So, learning different sounds and recognizing birds based on the noises they make is incredibly helpful.
Once you get used to this hobby, most of your identification can be made by sound, depending on what type of habitat you’re in. Learning bird calls is much simpler than you might think! There are different ways that you can learn: look for compilation videos, online resources, mnemonics, mobile apps designed to help birders.
While you’re on the lookout, keep your ears open for the following:
Pitch: listen closely to understand whether the pitch of the call is high or low.
Volume: estimate the loudness of the song
Length: figure out how long the call lasts.
Repetition: find out the repetitions of the sound.
Tempo: how fast the beats of the song are.
Stay Still And Stay Quiet
It might seem pretty obvious but staying quiet and still is birding 101. A sudden movement or loud noise can and will easily scare birds away.
It is next to impossible to sneak up on birds since they have higher hearing abilities than humans. However, you can still get considerably closer if you make as little noise as possible.
When you see an exceptionally exotic bird, the overwhelming desire is to yell. Even the experts sometimes forget to contain themselves when they spot rare species.
Beginners adapt to staying quiet or exchanging whispers very quickly. Once you get yourself in the field, you will get the hang of it eventually.
Quick movements startle them just as much as loud noises. To close the distance between you and the bird, you have to stalk it, move slowly and cautiously. A sudden jarring movement, even when swinging your binoculars up to your eyes, can frighten a bird enough for it to fly away.
Also, keep in mind that the more people you tag along with, the more likely you will scare birds into fleeing. So, it’s logical to limit the group to an ideal size of 2-4 people at best. If you have too much more than that, it’s bound to rid not just birds, but other animals as well.
Stop, Look, Listen, Repeat
Spotting birds requires you to give 110% of your attention. Stopping, stepping out of the car, standing on the sidewalk, trailing in the neighbourhood, or gazing up from the backyard are all critical first steps.
Avoid gazing around excessively when searching for birds. Observe your surroundings or pay special attention to any strange objects or shadows instead. Any slight movement in the tree branches or a short chirp could indicate there is a bird nearby.
You will have a more panoramic view in open areas such as beaches and fields. Take a good idea of the landscape before beginning to look for birds. With more time in the field, you will be parsing through the strings and identifying every species.
Repeat this method as you carry on your trail, pausing to look carefully and listen as you go rather than waiting for birds to come to you.
Wait And Be Patient
This isn’t a lifestyle for the impatient. To be honest, most of it is just sitting quietly and waiting. So, if you don’t consider yourself a patient person, then maybe go for instantly rewarding hobbies like cooking or gardening.
While it may be frustrating to spend a long time locating birds, you still have to wait and be patient. This common factor demotivates newbies from entirely investing themselves in this hobby.
A woodpecker pecking around in a tree will eventually relocate into a position from where you can get a nice look. It is mostly about waiting and having the patience for birds to show up themselves.
Keep in mind that you are far from being an expert as you get into this hobby. You may be confused about what you saw or heard, but it doesn’t make the experience any less exciting or lovely. Waiting might be bitter, but the fruit will always be sweet.
Just be patient and have a good time. Relax, soak in the scenery and sounds around, and have fun!
Don’t set your expectations high on getting good views on every bird. No matter how patient you are or how cautiously you move, chances of getting the perfect view will be rare.
When the views are underwhelming, bird watchers use a method known as pishing. Pishing requires emitting short, squeaky noises by smooching the back of your hand or blowing air through your clenched teeth to produce a low whistled pish.
These sounds attract small birds. The method works almost all the time as they will fly into the area to inspect. Here’s how you do it: Close your teeth, slightly separate your lips, and say the word “pish”.
Don’t Wear Bright Clothes
Most birds have weak color vision. Yet bright colors, such as whites, will not blend in with the surrounding environment.
This makes anyone wearing any contrasting color more visible to birds. Thus, they will be more likely to fly away if they see any movement of brightly colored objects.
To blend in with the background, wear deeper tones or earth colors that look like the environment around you. Hunters wear camouflage to stay hidden from their prey.
Though you may not be a hunter, wearing camouflage may blend in. There is no scientific research on darker or dull colors working better than camouflage, but either will work just fine.
Time Of The day
Have you ever heard this phrase, “The early bird gets the worm”? If it were true, that would mean the early birder would have to rise even earlier.
Most of the species sing more at dusk and dawn because of the cooler air and slower breeze. It also allows their songs to travel further. These melodies are not only pleasant to hear, but they also alert you to the presence of a bird that you may not be able to see.
Many birds are diurnal, which means they are active during the day. Owls and so many other species are nocturnal (active in the evening and into the night.) However, it’s not a deal-breaker if you are not a morning person. It’s always a delight to watch birds at all times. Learn all their behaviors at different times of the day.
Get To Know Birds Near You
Pay closer attention to the birds outside your house. Try focusing on the sights, sounds and learn their habits.
Beginning birders should first learn what species have always been around them. You can never go birding anywhere far if you can’t even name the species around you.
Once you have learned to name local birds in your area, you will easily identify species outside your window and in your neighborhood. After that, visit different parks and forests and expand your knowledge.
Each bird has evolved to thrive in its respective habitat. Hawks and Eagles enjoy wide-open fields, while woodpeckers spend all day pecking away in trees. Sparrows prefer dense thickets. Where you look will play a massive part in what you will find.
Keep in mind that local birds in your area will change by the season and where you live. This also includes the ones migrating through the specific region.
Attracting Birds To Visit Your Backyard
If waiting isn’t the cup of your tea, then bring them to you! It’s common for people to install bird feeders in their backyard as a way to attract them. However, not all feeds work in the same way. Many commercial kinds are mostly composed of “fillers” (oats, wheat, etc.) that birds usually will not touch.
First, learn about the birds that live in your region. After learning, you may make your own bird feeder with seeds that will attract them. Soon, the feeders will start attracting the ones you wish visited your home.
Aside from buying a bird feeder, making your yard into an eco-friendly haven is by far the most effective technique to attract birds. A great first step would be less lawn mowing, more planting native plants and flowers. Stop using chemicals that rid pests because birds love to feed on them.
Restoring the insects that they love to eat will soon fill your yard with tons of friendly flying friends. After all, the most they want is a safe place to take refuge and eat in peace.
What Things Are Required For Bird Watching?
Beginners are often lost on what they specifically need to go birding. These are the important things everyone should have before going birding:
Binoculars come in a variety of styles and sizes. Smaller ones are often lighter but have lower magnification. Larger ones typically offer higher magnification, but they are heavier. Try on various sizes to see which one suits you the best, I prefer the lighter models.
Make sure you get a wide, crystal clear, and clean image through yours. You can get over-the-top decent binoculars for considerably low prices nowadays.
Though the ones under $100 may seem like the ideal choice, spending $200 to $400 for much crisper imagine, waterproof housing, lifetime warranties, and lightweight is well worth the investment. After all, these are essential for birding. Not just for beginners but for experts as well.
There is as much as $1000 worth of binoculars. However, for the newbies, a grand worth of investment might not yet be worth it.
When you start birding, you would want to know the names and features of the species. Beginners should have a field guide with them at all times.
These guides are vital for identifying and learning bird species. They come in different sizes, shapes, and formats.
A bird ID card is the most basic type of guide. It’s the lightest option that usually comes with a folder, waterproof cover. However, these guides only identify a handful of the local species. So, it can only name the ones that are more likely to be seen.
They are cheap and often available in park centers or gift shops. Since you’re just getting into this hobby, a basic guide would be an ideal choice.
Thanks to the spread of digital gadgetry, you can now shoot images anywhere, at any time. Even taking a blurry picture can help you or others to identify it with ease.
The best part is, you wouldn’t even need to get an expensive digital camera. Your phone camera will just do just fine!
Anyone with a smartphone will be more than equipped to go bird watching. The majority of field guides are accessible as apps. Most of them include bird calls and sounds that you can learn and listen to. Not only will they have pictures and videos but also features and facts about the species you’re looking for!
Birding apps can gather data and show you maps. They even provide directions for you to follow and potentially find the specific species you desire to look at.
When Is The Best Time To Go Birding?
The most ideal time to go birding would be spring and fall migrations. Friendly species gather in big numbers during this period that makes them more visible. Birdwatchers can also see migratory species that have gone off-route during their migration.
During the breeding season, birds are more energetic and will appear more often than usual. Most of them will get territorial and make loud noises.
Males will sing songs to attract females, which makes them easier to identify. People should take extreme measures from disturbing nests.
A lot of newbies are not careful enough and end up disturbing the wild. Find and watch a nest from a safe distance that makes it worthwhile to go birding during the breeding season.
In poor weather, high winds, and severe storms, birds are naturally less active. However, they will be more busy than usual when the bad conditions pass to make up for the scavenging they lost.
All beginners should keep an eye out for birds at all times. Observing at different times of the day, at different times of the year, will help you enjoy birding to its fullest. Eventually, you fall in love with this hobby like countless others!